Written by Joy Scherry
On May 19, 2016 I had a rare and wonderful opportunity to examine DSU history with the people who lived it. As the archivist I have the unique ability to examine primary source documents every day. While I count this as a very great privilege, the records do not provide clear pictures of human emotions or motivations. This level of understanding can only be gained by speaking with the people present at the time.
The 2016 Alumni Luncheon was one such occasion as alumni from as far as Florida convened in Dover for a luncheon where they swapped stories, shared memorabilia, listened to a presentation by Carlos Holmes (DSU’s Unofficial historian), and viewed a display of materials from the DSU archives.
I love alumni gatherings for a number of reasons but primarily because there are tidbits of information that cannot be captured on paper and are instead passed on through oral tradition. Did you know that Dr. Maurice Thomasson, sociology professor and two-time acting-president, was fondly called Dr. Ether? Like the drug, Dr. Thomasson’s lectures put students to sleep.
By far, my favorite part of the day was a discussion of the 1968 student unrest. In case you’re not familiar with this event, the gist of it is that students wanted to name the first student center after Martin Luther King Jr. but because administrators didn’t reply to their request, the students interrupted the building’s dedication ceremony in order to so name the building. The circumstances of event have always been cloudy, but yesterday there were individuals present to offer three distinct perspectives – that of President Mishoe’s secretary representing the voice of administrators, the viewpoint of students present for the unrest, and lastly an individual who was a member of the Delaware National Guard that was dispatched to quell the demonstration. Perhaps for the first time, contemporaries were able to reconcile their perceptions and gain a better understanding of the opposing viewpoint. Because of the candid and chance nature of the conversation I doubt that this is an experience that can be duplicated. I’m grateful that I was present to witness it.
Each time I attend alumni gatherings I am always truly inspired by the friendship and joy shared by the people present. Watching the DSU family reminds me that even though experiences can be shared, every life is unique and has immeasurable value.
|Pauline Walker Wilkes, pictured in the center|